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Fractures: Types, First-aid, Treatment

A fall too hard, and you might just end up with a fracture. Here’s a low-down on those painful fractures.

Bones are rigid, but they do break when force is applied; so just as a plastic ruler breaks after being bent too far. When there is high impact – the bone can break too.

What is a fracture?

A fracture is a complete or a partial breakage of the bone on account of stress or high impact forces. People suffering from certain medical conditions like osteoporosis and bone cancer are more prone to bone fractures.

Types of fractures:

All fractures can be broadly classified into simple and compound fractures.

A simple fracture is one where the skin remains intact. A compound fracture on the other hand, also involves open wounds. Since open injuries are prone to infection, compound fractures are more severe and are susceptible to infection.

Fractures are further classified as:

  • Compression fractures: these usually occur in the vertebrae
  • Complete fracture: where bone fragments separate completely
  • Incomplete fracture: here, bone fragments are still partially joined
  • Linear fracture: where the discontinuity in the bone is parallel to the bone’s long axis
  • Transverse fracture: the fracture is perpendicular to the long axis of the bone
  • Spiral fracture: a fracture in which at least one part of the bone has been twisted

At times, fractures are also classified anatomically — specifying the body part.

Why do fractures hurt so much?

Though bones do not have sensory receptors, fractures are typically painful on account of reasons like internal bleeding into nearby soft tissues, muscle spasms trying to hold bone fragments in place and damage to adjacent structures like vessels or nerves.

Cautionary advice in case of fractures:

Because fractures are very painful and make it difficult, if not impossible, to use that injured part of the body, most people call a doctor soon. However, in some cases, a person can use a fractured arm or leg. So, just because you can use that fratured limb, it does not mean that you don’t have a fracture. If you think a bone is broken, seek medical help immediately. An X-ray and a medical examination generally become necessary to tell for sure and to ensure proper treatment.

Treating a fracture:

There is one basic rule followed for all forms of treatment for broken bones: the broken pieces must be put back in place, and prevented from moving out of place until they are healed.

Fractures are typically treated by realigning the bone and immobilising the injured bone by placing it in a cast for at least 8 weeks. Internal correction is required in case of more severe fractures and may thus

involve the use of rods, screws and pins to ensure accurate realignment of the bone. Immobilisation ensures optimum internal growth as the bone heals, and taking calcium supplements along with other prescribed medication allows the patient a measure of relief. After the bone’s regrowth, the treatment extends to physiotherapy sessions to help strengthen the bone.

First-aid guide for fractures:

  • First and foremost, moving a broken or dislocated bone can cause additional damage to the bone, surrounding nerves, tissues and blood vessels. So, restrict movement and keep it as still as possible.
  • Ensure that the injured person is not in a state of shock, and use a splint to immobilise the bone till appropriate medical attention can be provided.
  • If there is an open wound, cover it by a clean cloth or bandage on the way to further medical treatment.
  • Keep the injured body part elevated, as it helps reduce bleeding and swelling
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